Summary: God provides plenty of opportunities to recognize the risen Lord.
It was this Mary who traveled with Jesus and his disciples during his time on earth. And when Jesus died on that cross she was heart broken. Mary, along with others, wanted to show her love to Jesus in whatever way she could, so she came to the tomb early that morning to complete the burial ritual of adding spices and perfumes. There she discovered that the tomb had been opened and the body was no longer there. She was certain that someone had come and added insult to injury by taking away the body of Jesus. And she stood weeping outside the tomb, not realizing that God was trying to help her.
Most of you have heard the story of the woman whose house was flooded after a huge rain. She kept looking for higher ground and eventually ended up on the roof. In her prayers, God had told her that he would save her. Someone offered to throw a rope to her, but she refused. “God will save me,” she said. A man came by in a boat and offered to take her along, but she said, “No. God will save me.” Finally, a helicopter came to pick her up and she refused. The water eventually covered her house and she lost her life. In heaven, she asked God, “Why didn’t you save me?” And God said, “I tried three times, but you refused.”
God tried to rescue Mary from her flood of tears four times, but it took her awhile to understand. And God is still offering those opportunities today.
1. Mary’s first opportunity was the empty tomb. Mary stood weeping outside that tomb, completely unaware that this empty space beside her held the key to her healing and hope. The grave was empty, not because someone took Jesus away, but because he got up and walked out. God had opened the door of that prison and freed Jesus from death. But because of her tears, Mary was unable to recognize the meaning of the empty tomb. It was a gift she was unable to receive at that time.
Many people today are so focused on the pain in their lives, and the sin that they bear, that they fail to see that God has placed opportunities in their pathway to remind them that God wants to wipe away their tears. How many times do people pass by houses of worship like this one which to them seem like empty buildings that have nothing to do with their problems, when in reality these places are God’s gift to them. They can be an oasis in a dry desert.
I’m always amazed when we knock on doors in the neighborhood and an adult says, “Which church?” “Where?” They drive past it every day but don’t see it as a place of comfort and refuge. But I’m also amazed that when the going gets tough, many people do find us. They have heard from someone that this church is willing to help. Not long ago, one such person came for a Sunday service. He was in trouble with the law and his finances were a mess. He didn’t ask for money. But he seemed overjoyed that we were willing to listen to him and to pray with him.
God has placed the church in this city as a witness to his love, just as the empty tomb was there to witness to God’s power. Maybe you haven’t given the church a second thought, but God has put it here for a reason and he wants to get your attention. He wants to wipe away your tears.